With the husband and daughter crazy about snow, Grossglockner had to be a must-visit in our Austria itinerary. I am not a ‘cold weather’ person though. Any place with temperatures below 15 degree Celsius can make a moron out of me. But then, I go out with them, after covering myself and them in layers of clothing.
We set out for Grossglockner on our third morning in Salzburg. By now, it was clear that we had ran out of luck on the weather front in Salzburg. Day 1 had been so so beautiful, when we walked around the old town center and had gone up to the Fort (Read: Sight-Seeing in Salzburg, Austria). The weather the very next morning, when we were scheduled for Innsbruck and Swarovski (Read: Day tour of Innsbruck and Swarovski, Austria) was headed downhill. By the morning we were Grossglockner bound, the skies had opened up and it was only rains and more rains predicted for the rest of the day. Ah well, so much for looking forward to the countryside of the Alps!
Salzburg to Grossglockner would be a 3-hour driver, informed the lady who would drive us there and back from Bob’s Special Tours!! She asked us to catch an early breakfast since she wanted to set off by 9am after picking up 2 other guests from nearby hotels. We started dot on time, with almost a sack full of extra jackets and caps.
By the time we hit the countryside, it still drizzled, but thankfully, there were parts where the clouds cleared somewhat and allowed us a peek of the meadows, hills and the houses. Absolutely stunning. Apparently, on a bright day, the place looked like a fairy land. We nodded ruefully. That the place is magical with the sun is a no-brainer – the wild yellow flowers, the undulating hills, the lofty trees covering the top of the hills, the chalets….we begged the sun to come out the entire way up to the glacier and back…..
Just before the last 45 min of the drive, we drove to a charming little café for washroom and coffee break, saying that beyond this point it would be barren until we reached the peak. Now, you must stop there when you are going to Grossglockner. For, the place sells the most amazing pastries and swiss rolls. So so good, that we can do the trip once again only for the awesome bakes of this café!
With that we started the last 45 min of the drive on the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse (Grossglockner High Alpine Road) — a steep climb past barren hills that soon give way to hills covered with snow and more snow. Did you know that the Grossglockner mountain is the highest in Austria? We didn’t know too….until we hit upon it’s road. The first sighting of the snow slopes right past the van’s window drew a collective ‘wow’ and squeal from everyone. The drive from here onwards is only between this dramatic cover of white……you almost feel like getting off the van and walking/running.
By now clicking photographs like someone possessed! By the time we reached Kaiser Franz Josefs Höhe Visitor Center, there was quite a bit of wind…it’s howling and its icy slaps though couldn’t stop us from taking picture against the hills and the glacier. Every time our fingers would go numb, we’d run for cover, only to come out soon after to try our luck again.
The Panoramic Restaurant at Kaiser Franz Josefs Höhe offers a panoramic view of the East Alps – Grossglockner (3,798 m) and the Pasterze Glacier. We ordered soup and sausages and bread and burgers….probably one of the tastiest meal of our lives.
By the time we left Kaiser Franz Josefs Höhe, the wind had turned into a baby blizzard and we had frozen. No, the rains hadn’t stopped too….But as the say, if you haven’t seen rains in Austria, your experience remains incomplete. We saw, and were conquered…..
Important things to remember about the Grossglockner tour:
- It is open only between May to October
- Carry your passport with you as you will pass through Germany and back into Austria during the drive
P.S: For a complete Austria itinerary and tour details, read — A Perfect Summer Holiday in Austria